Is a Private Cloud the Same as a Virtual Private Cloud?

Private Cloud vs. Virtual Private Cloud

When it comes to the cloud, there’s bound to be some confusion. As technology advances, terminology increases. But one question that seems to come up regularly revolves around the difference (and if there is one) between a private cloud and a virtual private cloud (VPC). Often, the terms are used interchangeably—but in reality, they shouldn't be.

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What is a Private Cloud?

A private cloud is a dedicated cloud infrastructure that is completely dedicated to one organization. Despite what many people think, some hardware vendors are attempting to position private cloud as not a virtual cloud that just offers more security than public clouds. “Private” doesn’t refer to heightened security within a virtual cloud, it refers to the exclusive use of a platform housing one organization’s data.

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Some organizations refer to their internal hardware as a 'private cloud', but that's not entirely accurate. They build it by purchasing the infrastructure, installing the software, and hiring an internal team to manage it. They may house this on-premise within their offices, or offsite in their own data center suite. Organizations may also choose to place their private cloud equipment with a third-party service provider; in this scenario, they still purchase the physical equipment, but house it at a provider’s data center to achieve economic benefits such as access to power and internet connectivity, and protection from fire, theft, and malicious damage. 

The reason that "private cloud" is not the best term is because the core definition of 'cloud' is that it must be elastic and scalable without the obligation to buy more hardware.   So, by definition, an internal 'private cloud' should really just be referred to as 'internal infrastructure.'

Regardless of whether an organization manages their own private cloud, or has a third-party provider manage it for them, neither one is a “true” cloud in the way most people think of it. A true cloud is a virtual infrastructure that is reliable, elastic, and scalable. You only pay for resources consumed, and more storage can be added instantly without needing to acquire new hardware.


What is a Virtual Private Cloud?

This is the cloud in the way most people think of it. It’s just as virtual as a public cloud like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, yet unlike these providers—which may have thousands or millions of users sharing the same infrastructure—VPCs offer a level of isolation between customers through a private IP subnet, or Virtual Local-Area Network (VLAN), on a per customer basis. Breaking down the name into its three components helps clear up any confusion:

  • Virtual: It is not dependent on any physical hardware
  • Private: There is isolation between users (for both security and performance)
  • Cloud: Workloads are managed in the cloud

Beware of Fake Clouds

Some hardware vendors are using the confusion surrounding private clouds and virtual private clouds to their advantage, giving clients the impression that their physical servers are virtual clouds. It can’t be stressed enough that running on a physical server, whether on-premise or with a third-party, is not a true VPC and misses the basic premise of the cloud. Organizations making a move to the cloud with a third-party provider need to understand the differences between a private cloud and a VPC. To be truly virtual, always look for providers offering VPC or be sure to ask about them.


Disadvantages of a Hardware-only Infrastructure 

You might be thinking, why do I care if my cloud provider is offering a physical or virtual cloud? Here are the top four drawbacks to a third-party private cloud that is not a virtual VPC:

  1. Slow Upgrades

    Whenever new software versions are released, organizations are at the mercy of the hardware provider to roll it out. These providers have to upgrade each customer individually, meaning it could take months before the upgrade is applied. Alternately, with a VPC, providers can upgrade everyone incrementally with no downtime; most providers will refresh the underlying hardware while constantly acquiring new hardware that is faster and better. Over time, customers’ workloads hosted in a VPC get faster and more secure.
  2. Lessened Security

    Most third-party private cloud providers simply do not have the amount of staff needed to provide proper security and privacy; and many hosts don’t have SOC1, SOC2, CJIS compliance for government or HIPAA compliance for healthcare. In addition, VPC providers have a highly-vested interest in keeping things running smoothly and securely since all customers operate on the same back-end infrastructure. To keep clients satisfied, reputable VPC providers typically spend more time than any individual would to obtain this level of reliability and security.
  3. Heightened Downtime

    Because each customer is operating on their own software, it may take many hours to get up and running after something goes wrong. Alternately, VPC providers can boast mere seconds or minutes of downtime (or less).
  4. Overbuying Capacity

    Scaling up with a third-party private cloud can be an arduous process, and since many organizations don’t know exactly how much capacity they will need, they wind up overbuying to be sure they’re not short. This often means paying for unused capacity. Instead, with a VPC, organizations only pay for the resources they use, much like a utility.

Interested in learning more about a VPC for your organization? Our VPC services easily integrate with onsite or offsite workloads, and our IT experts will be on-hand every step of the way to ensure a seamless transition. We ensure strict security protocols, 99.99%+ uptime, and a complete compliance package that meets the requirements of CJIS, HIPAA, PCI, SOC1, and SOC2. Speak with a cloud migration expert at DSM today.

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